On Faith, Life, and Refugees

On Faith, Life, and Refugees

A guest post by Andrea Bailey

We are not listening to each other. I hear conservatives accusing liberals and other conservatives that they have bought into liberal biased media hype. I hear liberals accusing conservatives of being hateful and intolerant, all the while not listening themselves. I hear those genuinely concerned for truth asking questions and being overwhelmed, not sure who they should trust. I hear so many proclaiming boldly which media sources can be trusted and which ones cannot, authoritatively dismissing legitimate questions and reasonable discourse. I hear fear and pride.

If only it were so simple. If only we could know with certainty which sources to trust. If only that source could outline all the answers. If only we could trust that facts and news could come to us without bias or could be completely neutral.

Speaking to those who seek to follow Christ, at this intersection of faith and life, there are no simple, axiomatic solutions. We must seek wisdom. The application of truth requires wisdom and is never simple; rather, its progress is often slow and it requires discernment, effort and humility to learn.

For those who claim the name Christian, how do you know truth? Where do you turn for truth and the wisdom to live it out? How does that truth teach you to stand in these matters? Is truth ever just rational or logical belief? Is it not also experiencing God in the details of our physical lives, authenticating and revealing more fully that which we also know and confess?

It seems possible that in these matters of loving others, we have erred too much on the side of reason. We have not experienced truth in that way which helps us to fully know it, through our physical, everyday experiences, entering into the physical, everyday lives of those we are called to serve.

Where do we think we can experience the grace and mercy of God more than in entering into the struggles of those whom He has taught us to love? But have we entered in?

Christ spent his time with the poor, the marginalized, the broken, the suffering, the sick—these are the ones he most often gave the gift of His physical presence. Loving others carries a cost but did Christ not show us how to love when He came to show His love for us?

God’s love for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the sojourner is undeniable throughout Scripture and His commands for us to care for them cannot be dismissed. And so it is needful to consider how we were taught to love.

Are we only supposed to love and welcome others when it is safe for us, or doesn’t cost us too much, even though the ones seeking our help are suffering or dying? When God calls us to love the sojourner, did He say only if they believe in Me and it will not threaten your safety?

I recognize that this type of thinking has the potential to conflict with national security, but does it have to? Can we rally for stronger security measures while still advocating for our government to give us the ability to welcome those who are suffering, in accordance with the teachings of our faith? Does our faith allow us to ignore the sufferings of others in the name of national security?

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Of those who are no longer allowed to come safely to our shores, is it possible that they might also have learned and believed the Good News—that God loves them and welcomes them to believe and be healed? Is it possible that they would have believed, especially in a land where they are shown welcome and are given the freedom to believe? But for now they cannot come. For now they cannot hear. For now, is it not more likely that they will think of America, that Christian nation (as it is believed to be), as a nation who worships a God that does not care that they are suffering?

To love is to sacrifice.

As Christians, can you claim to value and cherish life and then stay silent while it is denied to those who are in danger of losing theirs? Have you supported and sacrificed when those seeking to care for the ones who have already lost so much in this life, need help?

Let’s bring it closer to home—when you see a young single woman, trying to care for her child on her own, have you helped? Or have you referred her to government programs and then supported policies that make her life more difficult?

When you see adoptive or foster families struggling, sacrificially loving children who have lost or have suffered, have you entered in? Have you given of your own time? Has it cost you anything to help care for those lives which you said you were for? Has it changed the way you live?

If we have not entered into the lives of those whom Christ taught us to love, sacrificially giving of ourselves, is it possible that our unaffected lives mock their suffering? It is possible that our unaffected lives are the very thing which cause them to doubt God’s love for them?

And so today, to all who claim the name Christian, I invite you to enter into the lives of those who are suffering. Only in entering in can we more fully experience that which we know. Only in entering in can we more faithfully demonstrate the love of God for those who are suffering. Only in entering in can we see the power of love in the face of fear because only in entering in can we know more fully that perfect Love which drives out all fear.

 

Andrea Bailey directs a faith-based ESL program serving refugees and immigrants in her local community.

Dear Church

Dear Church

There were men made old by time only

Thoughts and eyes clear and seeing

And soft wives sitting beside them

Their whole form a delicate sigh.

They’d talk and life moved in ordered ways

And no one refused a piece of cherry pie because of gluten.

Their lives had breathing room

Twinkies didn’t bear a load of guilt, bad parenting, toxicity, nor politics. They were a dessert.  Go figure.

You could be sure when the new dad proclaimed “It’s a boy!” that it was a statement and not a guess.

Every pillar hadn’t been rattled yet

Every ancient belief hadn’t been shouted down and reviled.

They didn’t know the darkness their grandchildren would know

But they see it now

Their breath catches

and they see it now.

How the public square isn’t a square at all, no straight lines, no corners,

A circle, a smooth circle where the idea can echo back to itself forever without a stray hit nor odd angle.

All edges were curved, see, by force, see, and the corners bashed inward.

It took time but mostly we were asleep, the church snoring loudest.

We awoke to the circle and some cried out

and the man and his wife shake their gray heads

and watch Jeopardy.

Well

I am angled,

I am not easy, and I am not asleep.

Dear church, Go and sin no more.

Sleep no more, die no more.

Be shaped by the cross, by the Word made flesh

Or

be shaped by the world,

by the circle that will smile on you and pat your ever-yessing head

but

give up the name then;

don’t drag that beautiful, loaded name through that mud. Christian, little Christ.

Be honest,

fully, if you’d rather be smiled at than mocked

Please

give up the name.

Adjusting Focus

Adjusting Focus

untitled (7 of 32) untitled (8 of 32)It was another average Friday night with friends; sitting around a table with a board game spread out, sushi rolls long-disappeared, chips and salsa, and a rousing debate about the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary.  If this isn’t part of your life, I daresay I pity you; nothing goes with sushi like discussions about theology.  As long as both are worth chewing on.

We even got out the Greek Lexicon.  Deep waters, my friends.

Happily, it wasn’t a debate pivoted upon proving a point, but rather about seeking truth.  Together.

As we discussed and researched the historicity of the claim, the Biblical and extrabiblical support or lack thereof for it, the implications of it, etc, we were eating and I was breastfeeding and any number of our combined eleven children were popping in and out of the room.  “When did the doctrine first appear in writing?”  (Baby grunts and poops, husband and wife banter about who will change the diaper)  “What did the early church fathers say about this?”  (Child needs help finding pajamas)  “Were Jesus’s brothers Joseph’s sons from a previous marriage?”  (Munching of chips)

The focus whiplashed from the micro to the macro and everywhere in between, and that is precisely right and quite good.  Have you heard it said with a note of disdain that we shouldn’t worry about fine points of doctrine, but rather we should focus on Jesus and loving others?  As if the macro precluded the micro?  That both couldn’t be important?  I’ve heard it a lot, especially in the evangelical world.  But maybe it’s possible, and important, to care about all of it?  To find both orthodoxy and orthopraxy of equal weight and worth?  I read it somewhere, how Christians these days are always trying to give truth a crew cut, to get down to the “essentials of the faith”, as if Christ Himself weren’t as complex as they come.

I’m studying Byzantium at present, at day’s end when quiet enfolds our home, and I burrow into some soft corner of couch or bed with my book and what remains of my cognitive functions.  What caught my attention is how much the Byzantines cared about theology, even the finest, most micro points of it.  And not just the clergy, but the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker, so to speak.  The micro mingled with the macro in the market.

I’ve been told that I think too deep about things, as if it were a miserable condition that hopefully I could be cured of.  But isn’t God infinitely deep?  Aren’t His mysteries just so?  Isn’t it quite right that we yell down a well to test the depth?  Don’t we shine small lights into vast caverns to see what we might see, even knowing that we don’t see more than a fraction of the grandeur?  If we photograph a landscape with a wide-angle lens, a broad sweep of the Grand Canyon for instance, don’t we also find a world of beauty in the wildflower clinging to the rocks at our feet?  Can’t we adjust our focus and find in all of it a glory to behold?

Yes, I daresay, we can!

We can care about the Filioque AND the homeless man begging over by Kmart.  We can debate the implications of the Council of Chalcedon AND attend to the spit-up streaming down our respective shirts.  We can share Jesus’s love in simple ways and simple words AND analyze the early church’s beliefs about His mother.  One focus doesn’t kick the other out of the room; together they bring the whole room into view.

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